• kearny
  • Hudson
  • January 28, 1948
  • November 13, 1968
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • CPL
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Michael Francis Branin, Jr. was born on January 28, 1948, Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Branin, Sr. His home of record is Kearny, NJ. Michael had five sisters, Nancy, Patricia, Maria, Catherine and Theresa.

At the age of 20, he entered the US Army and attained the rank of Corporal (CPL). Branin was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam.

Branin was killed in action on November 13, 1968.

Branin was awarded the following medals and decorations: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachute Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.

His Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device citation reads:
For heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Private First Class Branin distinguished himself while serving as a Rifleman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. On 13 November 1968, Private First Class Branin's company was subjected to intense enemy mortar and recoilless rifle fire while it was defending Landing Zone Vera. During the initial barrage of enemy fire, a rocket struck Private First Class Branin's bunker. Upon impact, he threw himself between the blast and his two comrades in the bunker. As a result of his heroic actions, he was mortally wounded by the flying shrapnel. Private First Class Branin's courageous acts, initiative and exemplary devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

The Town of Kearny established a living memorial through books in memory of Michael Branin. The memorial at Town Hall was dedicated in 2008. The town also dedicated a soccer field in Michael's memory. A biography and photograph of Michael were affixed to the face page of a book to allow young readers to remember and know him.

It was 27 years ago, May 1968, that I met Mike Branin. We were at Fort Gordon, GA, going through intense light weapons infantry training. Training was tougher than most because everyone was an airborne volunteer. Mike was a rugged, muscular, 20-year-old, with a shy personality and engaging smile. After Advanced Individual Training (AIT), we were bused to Fort Benning, GA where we spent the next three weeks going through Airborne Training. After Jump School we all said our good byes and best of luck because we knew the next stop was Vietnam.

It was now August and I was standing in a bus ticket line in San Francisco, when I noticed a soldier a few people in front of me. I had seen the back of that head many times before in the chow line, formation and road marches. It was Mike Branin. We decided to get a room for the night since we didn't have to report to Oakland Army Terminal until the next day. We were in no hurry to get to our destination. After several days at Oakland, the inevitable occurred. We finally boarded a commercial airline that would take about 20 or so hours to get to our next stop.

Once in Vietnam, Mike and I did most of our processing together because of our names being so close in the alphabet. We were both assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Division, Pleiku Vietnam. As luck would have it, Mike and I got the same squad. What a feeling, I was with someone I knew, someone from home even though I had never been to Kearny. For several months our unit worked off a LZ (Landing Zone) called LZ Jean. It was off Highway 19 and very close to Cambodia. Mike, PFC Buzzard and myself built a great bunker. We reinforced the roof and sides, paying particular attention to the blast wall at the door.

It was November 13, 1968, when Mike woke me up around 6:00 AM. He gave me a sitrep (situation report) and things didn't look good. We were about to meet this war up close and personal. Around 7:00 AM the first of many 55mm recoilless rifle rounds began landing indiscriminately inside our small base. I immediately took cover inside the bunker and yelled for Mike to do the same. The rounds were now whistling in two at a time. I prayed that nothing would hit the bunker when suddenly the whistle was very loud. The explosion was tremendous, spraying debris and choking smoke all over me, lifting me off the ground. Seconds later, I heard Mike screaming for me. The blast wall had been knocked down. I got him inside the bunker with me and tried to comfort him. Mike was hurt real bad and dying before my eyes. I carried him on a litter to an awaiting Medevac helicopter. It was a day or so later that I was told he died. I was devastated.

I accompanied Mike's body back to the States for burial at the request of his parents. Over the years, I've lost touch with the Branin family. I am the soldier who brought their son's body home.

Written Tim Baranyay, Friend

Michael Branin...was my baby sitter. He lived just three houses away from me in Kearny. When other teenagers were getting into trouble, Michael was teaching me and my brothers the little things like fun games, baseball, football, hide and seek and a little schooling. I remember him going into the Army and the next thing we found out, he was killed in Vietnam. It really hurt me. He was a good person, someone to look up to. I have never forgotten him...my first son is named after Michael. Many young Americans have died since then. I carry Michael's etching from The Wall in my Bible reminding me that freedom isn't free. He was a role model, one who I say lived the way he treated everybody, he treated everyone with respect, love and caring. He will never be forgotten in my heart.

Written by Martin Gorski
February 13, 2004

Source: Nancy Waller (sister), Tim Baranyay (friend), Martin Gorski (friend) and NJVVMF.


Be the first to add a remembrance for MICHAEL F BRANIN

Help preserve the legacy of this hero, learn about The Education Center.